President’s Letter: Remaining Committed and Vigilant as Ever

AS YOU ARE ALL AWARE, our last season was one of the most challenging ones we have ever experienced.

Warmer-than-normal conditions during late fall and winter delayed the onset of dormancy and resulted in very low winter chill accumulation. The unusually warm winter, combined with an El Niño climate phase (cloudy and cool conditions during our fruit set and development phase), were major factors delaying harvest of the 2016 Florida blueberry crop.

As a result, we were later than we have ever been on our harvest, which meant our fruit hit the market at an unusual time this year. Read More…


Registration Form for The Florida Blueberry Growers Association Fall Meeting and Trade Show

This event will be held on Thursday, October 6 2016.

This will be a day long event of educational seminars as well as the opportunity to visit with 65 vendors to the blueberry industry.   Lunch is included in your paid admission and your receipt is your lunch ticket.  Lunch will be provided by Curly Tails BBQ. Vendor space does sell out so be sure to reserve your booth space in advance.

Please Click Below



From the desk of President Dudley Calfee…

As you are all aware, our last season was one of the most challenging ones we have ever experienced.

Warmer than normal conditions during late fall and winter delayed the onset of dormancy and resulted in very low winter chill accumulation. The unusually warm winter combined with an El Niño climate phase (cloudy and cool conditions during our fruit set and development phase) were major factors delaying harvest of the 2016 Florida blueberry crop.

As a result, we were later than we have ever been on our harvest, which meant our fruit hit the market at an unusual time this year.

Many of you also lost entire fields to weather events like wind and hail storms and packing facilities closed down early due to low volumes of fruit. Because our neighbors to the north did not experience the same issues we faced, they came in on time and our labor left before we could finish our harvest.

It is important that you know your Executive Committee and Board of Directors are committed to finding assistance for our members. We have been in close communication with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office. Last week, the majority of your Board of Directors were on a call with the commissioner and his executive team, who expressed concern and a willingness to help anyway they could. We are currently working closely with them to get answers to questions involving insurance, bonding, credit lines, and loans. While there is not much they are able to do at the state level, they are helping us navigate the USDA to see if there is any assistance available to our members on the federal level. We will also be having a meeting with our friends at UF/IFAS to see if there is any assistance to be had there.

Commissioner Putnam’s chief of staff put me in touch with Tom Hockert at the Farm Service Agency. Tom is going to put his troops on alert that we have a situation. I made sure he was aware that counting the fruit left in the fields as harvestable is nonsense. Not only is the fruit worthless if it costs us more to harvest it than we get paid, but delaying trimming operations by continuing to harvest too long affects next year’s crop. This is an issue we will continue to work on with them. If you had losses greater than 30 percent, please contact me so that when FSA starts calculating losses, I can put them in touch with you.

Commissioner Putnam’s office will begin promoting U-Pick Blueberry Season in Florida on social media and radio this week. The primary target area is Central Florida, Tampa and Gainesville/Ocala. If your location and farm layout can be made to work for public harvest, please let us know so we can help you market your operation. Getting the last of the fruit off the bush with little or no labor cost will help add needed revenue this season. The FBGA website has a portal for you to add your farm for you pick operations and is one of the most popular destinations on the site.

The most important thing to remember right now is that one bad year does not kill an industry. We are innovators and have always met obstacles to our success. We will overcome this season and grow and learn from it.

Your FBGA Executive Committee and Board of Directors remain committed to helping our industry grow and thrive, but we need your help. While this year was undoubtedly a difficult one, we ask that you resist speaking to the media or other outside groups about the problems we have faced. Doing so will not elevate our industry or gain us assistance, rather, it could make an already difficult situation more difficult by ensuring our members have trouble securing lines of credit and insurance in the coming years.

Last year’s harvest season is behind us now and we are beginning our summer growing season. At this time, it is vital that we pull together, stay positive, and do everything in our power to make sure next year’s harvest is a productive one.


USDA Crop Insurance Risk Management Fact Sheet

All of your blueberries in a county are insurable if:

  • The actuarial documents provide premium rates;
  • They are varieties of the Highbush or Rabbiteye typesthat are adapted to the area where planted;
  • They are grown on acreage that has produced an average of at least 1,000 pounds per acre in at least 1 of the 3 previous crop years;
  • Your insurance company, after inspection, finds them acceptable (inspection is required for newly insured
    acreage); and
  • You have a share in the blueberries.

Download entire fact sheet (PDF)


PRESIDENT’S LETTER: Overcoming the Challenges at Hand

It is no secret that we are up against another challenging season.  The lack of chill throughout our state has caused our crop to be slow and most of it will be ripening later than our traditional harvest time.

All reports indicate that our neighbors to the north are running on time and may even be a little early this year.

A lot of fruit is going to hit the market at an unusual time this year.  What can we, as growers, do to mitigate this problem?

Read More…


PRESIDENT’S LETTER -The Hot Topics on Everyone’s Minds

dudley_calfeeI am writing this letter in mid-December and right now the only thing I hear our blueberry growers talking about is “chill.”  In the midst of this hot topic, the two words I hear most often in this discussion are “little” and “none.”


It has been a historically warm winter so far, and this poses significant challenges to us as blueberry growers.  So far this year, chill has been hard to come by throughout the state.  Chill is usually defined as the time our bushes spend below 45 degrees but above 32 degrees.  More chill usually means more fruit.  This lack of chill also makes Hydrogen Cyanamid application a bit more of a guessing game.


HC applications do best when we have had some chill, preferably 100+ hours, but we have seen acceptable results in the past with as little as 50 hours and tremendous performance with 150+ hours.  The variables of application rate, vulnerability of different varieties to HC, and the risks associated with bud development as we wait for more chill hours are on everyone’s minds.


By the time this is published, the decisions will have been made for the most part and our season will be set.  So whether you choose to evergreen and forego HC application, spray early and get it over with or spray late hoping for a few more hours, it is probably a decision you have made by now.


Now we wait to see what type of winter bloom season and spring we will have— cold will affect pollinator activity early and harvest timing later.  We will, as always, persevere through this unusual season as we all continue to try to figure out what a “normal” season looks like.


Speaking of pollinators, the EPA is coming up with new label requirements to protect our pollinators.  The new labels should be out early this year.  Please read and follow the new requirements, as you may find that some pesticides you used in the past are now prohibited to be used on crops during the bloom stage.


Commissioner Adam Putnam’s Florida Department of Agriculture has taken the lead in pollinator protection regulation by putting together a team to meet with us and other stakeholders in agriculture and the honey bee industry to gather our knowledge and concerns as they relate to pollinators in our blueberry crop.  If you see an invitation to attend one of these meetings, please go.  I attended one last week and there were only two growers present, including myself and I was the only blueberry grower there.  The room was full of bee keepers, our friends in the industry, who were present to make their concerns known to the Florida Department of Agriculture team.  Bees are vital to our industry and we need to make sure we are present to show our support for pollinator protection and our solidarity with the folks who bring the hives to our fields.


In addition to protecting our pollinators, we must also take care to protect our crops from diseases and potential threats.  Here are a few pest observations of note:


  • The FBGA is pursuing a Section 18 exemption for something to help control the flat headed borer insect that is killing as much as 20 percent of plants in infested fields. We don’t have a label for an effective control agent at this time, but by working closely with the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association (FFVA), UF/IFAS department, and Entomologist Dr. Oscar Liburd at the University of Florida, we hope to find something that works against this pest and get it approved for use on our crop.


  • I got a call from a grower a few weeks ago who told me that he had blue/green weevils feeding on his plants. This is usually only a pest in citrus groves.  As our acreage expands some pests continue to find blueberries a good substitute host.


  • I still meet growers who have not heard about the parasitic algae problem, which seems specific to certain varieties. It is stunting some plants and killing others outright.


  • Please scout your fields carefully for these pests and pathogens and let the FBGA know if you find something new. Only by staying on guard can we protect our crop from new, invasive pests like these.


Our spring meeting date has been set for February 18 at the Trinkle Center in Plant City.  I hope to see everyone there.  As always, I wish everyone a safe and profitable season.



Dudley Calfee

President, Florida Blueberry Growers’ Association



FBGA Honors Sherri Brothers for 21 Years of Service

A special thank you toSherri Brothers retiring board member, Sherri Brothers. Thank you for 21 years of service to the Florida Blueberry Growers Association


Welcome to the Florida Blueberry Growers Association

If you would like to become a new member, please visit the About Us section for membership info.

We hope that you enjoy the site, whether you are a blueberry grower, educator, or even an old-fashioned blueberry fan – you will be able to find about all kinds of information here about Florida’s greatest crop.



Spring Meeting and Trade Show


Florida Blueberry Growers learn about  how this year’s weather and dormancy breaking treatments are affecting the 2016 blueberry crop in Florida and Georgia.  The Spring Meeting and Trade Show was held at the Hillsborough Community College Trinkle Center in Plant City, FL.  Check back later for speaker presentations.